British Columbia (B.C.) has joined Ontario and Quebec as the only jurisdictions in Canada with anti-SLAPP legislation. On March 25, 2019, Bill 2, the Protection of Public Participation Act, came into force in the province.
SLAPP is an acronym for strategic lawsuit against public participation. A SLAPP is a lawsuit filed in order to silence debate on an issue of public interest. Anti-SLAPP legislation gives a defendant an expedited process to apply to have a lawsuit dismissed if it can be shown to impinge on the defendant’s ability to speak freely on a matter of public interest.
Bill 2 is based on model legislation proposed by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada in 2017, which in turn is closely based on Ontario’s anti-SLAPP legislation.
B.C. may be the latest province to pass an anti-SLAPP law, but it is also the province with the longest experience with such a law. B.C. was the first province to pass an anti-SLAPP law in 2001, but the law was short-lived. Following a change of government, it was quickly repealed.
Bill 2 protects B.C. litigants facing SLAPPs started on or after May 15, 2018. That’s because a predecessor to Bill 2 was introduced on May 15, 2018, but died on the Order Paper when the legislative session was prorogued on February 12, 2019.